How did the King and Queen of Spain think they could benefit from Columbus's proposal?

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When Ferdinand of Aragon married Isabella of Castile in Valladolid in 1469, their union formed a sovereignty that would end up uniting Spain’s territories and making their country a leading global influence. Through various means, including the Spanish Inquisition, re-establishing control of Granada from the Moors, and forcing all Jewish and Muslim people under their reign to convert to Christianity or leave the country, they began to integrate and assimilate a number of Spanish colonies into their empire. However, they realized that Portugal was a threat to their global supremacy since they were challenging them in trade and exploration.

Since they were on such a conquest for power, it stands to reason that they were intrigued when approached by Christopher Columbus in 1492 to fund his exploration. They thought they could benefit from his voyage by:

  • Achieving prosperity for their country along with fame and fortune for themselves by claiming other nations for Spain
  • Spreading Catholicism to other regions
  • Beating Portugal in trade and exploration
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There were a number of ways that the Spanish monarchs hoped to benefit from Columbus' voyage. If Columbus was to find a short and inexpensive route to the Spice Islands, it would give the Spanish an advantage over their chief rivals, the Portuguese. For several decades, the Portuguese had dominated trade routes to Asia by rounding the southern tip of Africa. The Spanish were still reliant on obtaining expensive spices by way of less efficient overland routes. The king and queen of Spain hoped that by finding a new route by heading west across the ocean, they would be able to get an upper hand on the competition and enrich their kingdom at the same time.

Isabella and Ferdinand also hoped to expand their dominion to new lands. With Columbus voyaging beyond the explored world, they felt that they would have the opportunity to extend Spanish influence far beyond Europe.

Finally, Queen Isabella, being a staunch Catholic, wanted to extend the Church's influence. Columbus told the king and queen that he would convert new populations to Christianity. While this was not his primary purpose for the voyage, it was still a significant motivator.

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King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Spain saw many benefits of investing in Christopher Columbus's voyage in 1492. Despite the voyage being now famous for Columbus's discovery of the Americas, the initial voyage was actually an attempt to find a quicker trade route between Europe and Asia. This goal was one benefit that King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella saw when they decided to invest in Columbus's journey. By finding a shorter shipping route, the Spanish empire would gain an advantage when it came to trading with Asia when compared with the rest of Europe. A second benefit of funding Columbus's journey was that they would get to keep 90% of all the wealth found during the journey. This placed any potential riches from newly discovered lands in Spanish hands. This also represented a large incentive for Columbus as well, as he would maintain 10% of the wealth, and become governor of any new lands he found. Finally, a third benefit that helped them to decided to fund the voyage was to help spread Catholicism around the world, with the idea being that a more direct route to Asia would allow them to more easily spread the Catholic faith to that part of the world.

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